Phishing emails have been used for decades by cybercriminals to steal valuable data and cause organizational chaos.  Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations report found that 36% of data breaches in 2021 involved phishing attacks. Their strategies have improved over time to become more sophisticated and covert, making it more difficult to identify them. Find out how to recognize some of the most common types of phishing attacks and protect yourself from falling prey to them.


What exactly is “phishing”?

Phishing is a method that hackers use to deceive users into thinking that they have received an email from a reliable source. Phishing is the practice of using emails to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, or banking credentials from unsuspecting victims. They send out messages with attachments and links that are malicious in order to trick users into downloading malware or ransomware. These attacks are typically carried out by sending a large number of messages to business users and consumers, more or less at random, with the expectation that only a small number of those will respond.

How to protect yourself from phishing attacks

The detection and prevention of phishing attacks typically require a multi-pronged approach, which starts with employee education and anti-phishing solutions. If your employees know what to look for in a questionable email, in the event one slips through, they can spot it. The anti-phishing solutions will investigate the reputation of the domain and the sender, check to see if a sender or link within an email has been used in previous phishing campaigns, scan websites for malicious downloads, add link protection to block links that could become malicious over time, and compare the body of the email to previous messages that have been labelled as malicious.


What exactly does “spear phishing” mean?

In contrast to widespread phishing scams, targeted spear phishing emails are carefully crafted for a single target in an effort to elicit a response from that person. Attackers spend a significant amount of time researching the targeted individuals and organizations they work for to craft a personalized message, and they only send out a small number of messages at a time. These attacks originate from sender addresses with a high reputation or accounts that have already been compromised. They frequently contain zero-day links, which have never been used before, and don’t appear obviously malicious to the majority of security protection solutions. Hackers frequently use spear phishing attacks because of their high success rate. These attacks can be used to steal login credentials or infect devices with malware.

How to defend against attacks using spear phishing?

The majority of traditional security gateways rely on reputation analysis, blacklists, and searching for malicious payloads. However, spear phishing attacks are frequently able to circumvent these safeguards. A security solution needs to include an intelligent and context-aware technology that can recognize irregularities in the content of an email in order to prevent spear phishing attacks from being successful. One example of these anomalies is a mismatch between the sender’s identity and their email address. Other examples include phrases that are frequently used in phishing attacks, suspicious calls to action, and links that are out of place given the context of the email.


What exactly is meant by the term “Business Email Compromise” (BEC)?

BEC attacks, also known as CEO fraud, whaling, or wire transfer fraud, involve the impersonation of an employee within the organization with the goal of defrauding the company, its employees, customers, or partners. In most instances, the perpetrators of an attack will direct their attention toward employees of a company who have access to the company’s finances or personal information. They will then attempt to deceive these individuals into carrying out wire transfers or disclosing sensitive information. These attacks make use of social engineering techniques, compromise legitimate accounts, and frequently do not include any attachments or links.

How can BEC be prevented?

In a manner comparable to spear phishing, relying solely on an email gateway is insufficient to detect and prevent BEC attacks. Organizations need technology that does not rely on static rules to detect these targeted attacks. Instead, they need a solution that provides an analysis of the organization’s historical communication patterns and visibility into the organization’s internal email communication. This enables a more precise determination of whether or not a particular email is associated with a business email compromise (BEC) or an account takeover.

In closing

To protect your users from phishing and spear phishing attacks, there are many ways to improve your email security. You can set up strict rules to verify who is sending the emails and check for compliance. Utilize security analytics to notify your team of any suspicious activity and implement a data security platform to safeguard and monitor your data.

Want to learn more? Discover how Evron can help prevent and defend against spear phishing attacks, preventing the compromise or theft of your data.